|Image: Voice of America|
Trump and his rightwing scriptwriters routinely stoke hysteria about the violence they claim comes from the more than 260,000 unaccompanied minors that sought asylum here from 2012 to 2017. But these migrants are themselves fleeing violence in Central America, and that violence is largely fueled by weapons smuggled from the United States. By ensuring easy access to guns here, the U.S. arms industry and its propagandists in the NRA contribute to deaths in places like Honduras just as they do in our own country. “The violence crosses from here, in the U.S., to Central America,” one asylum seeker told Blizter. “It’s the opposite of what the politicians say. Gangs and guns—those all go south.”
Violent deaths in Mexico and Central America are in fact a big business for U.S. gun makers. “Some 2.2 percent of all U.S. gun sales are made to smuggling rings that take firearms to Mexico,” the Miami Herald reported in March 2013, citing a study by University of San Diego’s Trans-Border Institute and the San Janeiro-based Igarape Institute. An average of about 253,000 weapons bought in the United States were being taken south each year, the report found, representing $127.2 million in annual sales for the U.S. arms industry.
|Photo: AR/Jim Cole|
This trade in deadly weapons helps explain why so many gun shops are located near the border with Mexico, and why politicians in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas have made sure their states have few restrictions on gun sales. “Of the 51,300 retail gun shops in the United States that hold federal licenses, some 6,700 of them are concentrated in the four U.S. states that border Mexico,” Miami Herald reporter Tim Johnson wrote, citing one of the report’s authors. “On average, there are more than three gun dealers for every mile of the 1,970-mile border between the countries.”
And small arms smuggled from the United States aren’t the only contribution our arms industry makes to the violence south of the border. U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks in 2011 showed that drug cartels in Mexico, Colombia, and Central America had obtained quantities of military-grade weapons—hand grenades, rocket-propelled grenades, anti-tank weapons, anti-personnel mines—from Central American military stockpiles. “At least 90 percent of military-origin weapons (such as grenades and light anti-tank weapons)” seized by security agents in Mexico “are traced to Central American military stocks,” according to one of the cables. Some of these weapons—and probably many or most—were manufactured in the United States and supplied to corrupt rightwing Central American regimes by the U.S. government.
It is “illuminating,” the Mexican daily La Jornada wrote after the December 2012 school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, “that the society of the neighboring country, shocked by the nearly 30 murders carried out [in Newtown], isn’t able to react, on the other hand, to the tens of thousands of homicides committed in Mexico in the past six years with arms sold in the United States. Washington demands that Mexican authorities monitor and block the passage of illegal drugs to the north of the common border, but until now hasn’t shown the political will to proceed in the same way with the firearms, including high-caliber weapons, that proliferate in the Mexican market.”
Mexico and most Central American countries have strict gun control laws, and the populations there don’t seem to mind the restrictions. A September 2016 poll of 1,100 Mexicans showed 60 percent of respondents opposing even possession of firearms at home, which is allowed under current Mexican law. Young immigrants who come here from Central America apparently have similar views. A New Yorker article describes a group of about twenty students and teachers from DC’s Cardozo high school participating in last Saturday’s March for Our Lives. Most were from Central America. One held a sign reading “No necesitas una pistola para sentirte poderoso” on one side, with an English translation on the other side: “You don’t need a gun to feel powerful.”—TPOI editor